CHANDLER — The Catholic community in the continuously growing area of south Chandler has had a brand-new church building since May; now it is formally blessed as a house of worship.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrated a Mass of Dedication Sept. 24 at St. Juan Diego, St. Mary’s Parish’s second church, in which the altar, inner walls and other areas were consecrated with holy oil and incense, officially marking its role in the life of the Catholic church.
After Bishop Olmsted opened the doors, he led a contingent of priests, deacons and other church personnel along with about 750 worshippers inside as St. Juan Diego’s choir backed by several acoustic guitars and the church’s organist played a medley of “The Church’s one foundation” and “All are Welcome.”
The title appropriately reflected a theme of the bishop’s homily — that the church building itself is the place where worshippers can be nourished by God’s word and participation in the Eucharist. He referred to the Mass’ second reading from Ephesians 2, in which Paul wrote, “you are…fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”
“Today, this church building is being consecrated, set apart for the worship of the Lord,” the bishop told the congregation.
Anointing, or consecrating, a place of worship, not only has its place in Catholic church history but wider significance as well. The anointing of kings with oil and the blessing of the temple harkens back to the days of Israel under King David and his son, Solomon, noted Fr. Dan McBride, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and the key figure behind the church’s establishment.
During Mass, as Fr. McBride and others anointed the altar and the church’s inner walls, hymns filled the worship space. As the oil was poured a number of people had tears running down their cheeks, and after the altar was consecrated the darkened sanctuary’s lights were turned on, the whole congregation began clapping joyously.
“You literally haven’t brought the life of Christ into the church (until then). As a pastor, there are very few moments that compare to the consecration of a new church,” Fr. McBride said.
Mary Dluzen, a member of St. Juan Diego’s Art and Environment Committee that decorated the church and prepared the altar, called it a beautiful and significant occasion.
“We tried to create an environment that helped promote the meaning of the celebration. We incorporated mostly white, created the white altar cloth and accessory tables and white drape in [the] archways. That was the first direction we took,” she explained.
White and yellow roses, a symbol of St. Juan Diego, were added.
Fr. Chris Fraser, diocesan Judicial Vicar whose family worships at St. Juan Diego, was among the priests taking part in the anointing of the inner walls of the sanctuary. Fr. Fraser has a history in the parish community, having worked at St. Mary’s Parish during the early 1990s, answering phones. He also taught in the RCIA program at one point.
“It was a great honor and a great blessing for me to participate in (the anointing). You think of the legacy of the faith in this area of Arizona and how long it (St. Juan Diego) will be there. This is really something that has profound meaning. When you look at the bishop consecrating the altar, you recall the anointing of Jesus’ body after it was taken down from the Cross; thinking about all the implications, it makes you realize this is truly a beautiful event.”
There is room to expand and when the nave is fully built out, the church will seat between 1,200 and 1,400, according to architect David Arambula, who presented Bishop Olmsted with the church’s building plans prior to the Mass.